A Month of Vegetarian Cuisine

Vegivore Month: Three high-end restaurants take vegetarian cuisine from earthy to ethereal.


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(page 7 of 8)

Eggplant seldom gets this dressed up.

Toyama matched this with a Sancerre. We were drinking only an ounce or so of wine per course, fortunately. But even that much Sancerre is a wondrous palate cleanser.

Course No. 4: Corn. Each course seemed better than the last, but the fourth course blew all three of the previous courses away. It was soup—that is, a corn bisque that seemed powerful with butter and cream, yet had none of those things.

“It couldn’t,” said Garg. “We get more calls for vegan than vegetarian, so all I have to do with this menu is take the cheese off a few dishes, remove some butter, and it’s totally vegan.”

The bisque had both Kahuku corn for sweetness and flavor, and Dakota corn for milkiness, blended with shallots, leeks and a Hawaiian chili pepper until it flowed across the palate like thick, spicy cream.

Too homogenous for you? The bisque was poured over a corn salsa for crunch.

Not enough corn? The soup came with a little cone of popcorn.

Toyama came up with a brilliant match for this, a Leitz Riesling which, though drier than an average Auslese, still had enough fruitiness to stand up to the spice.

Course No. 5: Earth. Not dirt, obviously. Garg found his earthiness from mushrooms and root veggies (carrots, beets, radishes). Once again, this looked simple, but where was all that flavor coming from? The pale sauce, what was it?

Not butter, though almost that rich. It was pureed sunchoke. Not an artichoke, a sunchoke is the tuberous root of a species of sunflower. It has powerful umami, as much as consuming steak.

This was such a meaty course that Toyama uncorked a pinot noir so rich on the nose it almost seemed a cabernet. Where did he get such a wine? From Brda, Slovenia, near the Italian border. The producer is Mavia, and good luck finding it. Toyama gets a case every few years.

Course No. 6: Eggplant. Again three ways: grilled, done up katsu style and turned into eggplant caviar with a square of grilled tofu. (Note to Garg: Back off on the citrus in the eggplant caviar.)

This was good, though perhaps not to the level of the previous courses. Garg wasn’t happy with the way it turned out. “I think I will add some Bragg’s Amino Acids for more flavor pop,” he said.

Finally, dessert: Mango. Kulfi is a kind of Indian ice cream, often sold to kids on a stick. Kulfi isn’t whipped like ice cream, so it’s denser and melts more slowly.

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